Star Wars: Doctor Aphra #1 Review

Written by: Kieron Gillen

Art by: Kev Walker and Salvador Larroca

Publisher: Marvel

If there’s anyone who can take a risky move and make a sure-fire success, it’s Kieron Gillen. After his outstanding run on Darth Vader, his original character Doctor Aphra is spinning off into her own series. Gillen’s Vader run was so good that it really did need an ending, but Gillen getting to tell a complete story and then getting to continue with that universe and characters is like Christmas coming early. The first issue of Doctor Aphra, while not groundbreaking, sets the stage for a fun series that really feels different from other Star Wars products that have came before it.

The issue features Aphra a little after the conclusion to Darth Vader; having successfully faked her death and freed herself from Vader’s grasp, she’s now free to return to the world of archaeology, which in the Star Wars universe means theft, backstabbing and other underhanded tactics. Aphra is far more roguish and untrustworthy than your typical Indiana Jones character, her unpredictability making for a fun character that feels pretty unique among the other Star Wars titles. She was great fun in Darth Vader, so I was anxious to see how Gillen would transition her into a starring role without removing her charm. Thankfully, he manages to set up plenty of interesting threads and backstory for her that make me feel confident he’ll be able to deliver some great stories with her and build her into a nicely layered character. We get more of a look at her past than previously known, but Kieron manages to keep enough secret to maintain her level of detachment that makes her so entertaining to read.

The world Gillen creates also feels different from lots of other locals we’ve seen in the Star Wars comics. I’m personally very drawn to the seedy underside of sci-fi universes, places that feel lived in and far away from the shiny CGIness of the Jedi Temples. There’s a host of creative designs and nicely grimy criminal places in the issue that really drew me in to a different corner of the Star Wars universe. I especially like this featuring a character created in the comics and unconnected to any other movie or show. It makes the comics feel important in the EU, and I like that Marvel are willing to take a risk on a book like this. It enables us to check out interesting new parts of the Star Wars lore and dissuades my worries that the Star Wars property, as good as the newly released products have been, would mostly be used to milk for nostalgia.

It’s good to see there’s still a nice level of creativity in the franchise.

Darth Vader artist Salvador Larroca also returns to pass the torch over to new regular artist Kev Walker. Both artists look fantastic and work perfectly well in Gillen’s section of the EU. Walker in particular has a beautifully impressive opening that perfectly sets the tone for the adventures ahead and really nails the atmosphere the series is striving for. Occasionally his human figures can feel a little less impressive than his alien and other non-human characters though. It’s hard to put my finger on why exactly, but there’s a certain roughness that comes out that I can’t explain.

Salvador Larocca also does a great job portraying sections of Aphra’s past and exposing us again to different and diverse areas of the universe. I actually hope we get to see more back-ups like this in future issues, as it’s the first time in a long time from reading a Marvel comic that I actually feel like the extra price was worth it and that the extra pages I got actually added something to the experience. I wouldn’t pay $4.99 every month, but I’d like to see more of the story of Aphra’s presented here, perhaps even as one shots between arcs like the main title does with the Ben Kenobi stories. It really helps flesh out the character and make the world feel more real.

Overall, Doctor Aphra is a fun debut that takes things slows and starts building it’s own identity outside of Vader’s shadow. I’m really glad to see Marvel not play it safe with their Star Wars comics, especially since they’ve been of such consistent quality and been high sellers, so I really hope this is successful and we can see more stuff like this. This is a solid issue that promises things will only get better from here, after the slow burn brilliance of Darth Vader, I’m definitely down to see where Gillen takes us next.